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Is taste a matter of personal choice or a universal quality?

As sense: food - tongue

Compare: bad taste - good taste

As aesthetic category: aesthetics - avant-garde - camp - culture - fashion - "high" culture - kitsch - "low" culture - quality - sensibility - style

articles: semantics of taste

Ah, good taste! What a dreadful thing. Taste is the enemy of creativity. - Pablo Picasso, 1963

The best salami for everyone! -- Partista Communista Italiana

"In order to acquire bad taste one must first have very good taste." - John Waters

Related: beauty - bias - choice - connoisseur - consumerism - criticism - culture - desire - disgust - genre - judgement - moral - orientation - personal - preference - sense - snob - sociology - tastemaker - universal

Further reading: Stephen Bayley - Pierre Bourdieu - John Carey - Jukka Gronow - taste bibliography - Umberto Eco - Herbert Gans - Francis Haskell - Immanuel Kant - John Mullan

The concepts of "good taste" are intricately woven into society's control process and class structure. Aesthetics are not an objective body of laws suspended above us like Plato's supreme "Ideas"; they are rooted in the fundamental mechanics of how to control the population and maintain the status quo. --Vale and Juno, 1985


Taste is a term (­like literature, culture, quality and style) that carries its own value judgement: when one has taste, one has automatically good taste. Thus, the concept of taste is inextricably linked to good taste and bad taste, ergo "low culture" (usually associated with bad taste) and "high culture" (usually associated with good taste).

One of the basic missions of Jahsonic.com is to show that there are intimate connections between bad taste and good taste realms, and that quality artefacts can be found in both of them. [Aug 2005]


  • The sense that distinguishes the sweet, sour, salty, and bitter qualities of dissolved substances in contact with the taste buds on the tongue.
  • The faculty of discerning [to judge] what is aesthetically excellent or appropriate.
  • The sense of what is proper, seemly, or least likely to give offense in a given social situation.
  • To try food with the mouth; to eat or drink a little only; to try the flavor of anything; as, to taste of each kind of wine.

    Taste (aesthetics) [...]

    Taste can also refer to one's appreciation for aesthetic quality. Paul Graham notes, "I think it's easier to see ugliness than to imagine beauty. The recipe for great work is: very exacting taste."

    The modern concept of "taste" is a product of the 16th century Italian style called Mannerism, named at the time for the maniera or "manner" in which a work of art was couched. More specifically, the idea of "taste" as a quality that is independent of the style that is simply its vehicle — though the style might be designated a taste, such as "the Antique taste"— was born in the circle of Pope Julius III and first realized at the Villa Giulia built on the edge of Rome in 1551 - 1555.

    To the Enlightenment, "taste" was still a universal character, which could be recognized by what pleased any cultured sensibility. With the shift in perspective that Romanticism brought, it began to be thought that, to the contrary, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and could be individually interpreted, with results that might be of equivalent aesthetic value. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taste [Sept 2004]

    Taste (sociology)

    Taste as a sociological concept is expressed in the idea that certain personal preferences develop as the product of social pressures. The notion of taste in aesthetics is often associated with manners and good habits that are of innate nature. The main critic of this idea is French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, whose main argument is based on the claim that individual tastes and preferences are socially produced. According to Bourdieu, individual tastes are shaped by certain aspects of social practices and position within society. People aspire towards "higher" cultural forms and produce their identities accordingly – they want to be associated with those who are considered to be more developed intellectually and artistically and therefore tend to consume corresponding cultural products. In this sense the notion of taste is closely linked to consumption and consumerism: the viewer or reader consumes various artistic products and then interprets them by the means of criticism that rests upon the idea of taste.

    Bad taste is generally a title given to any object or idea that does not fall within the normal social standards of the time or area. Varying from society to society and from time to time, bad taste is generally thought of as a negative thing, but also changes with each individual.

    Some varieties of black humor employ bad taste for its shock value, similarly some artists deliberately create vulgar or kitsch works of art to defy critical standards or social norms. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taste_%28sociology%29 [Aug 2005]

    See also: sociology - aesthetics - bad taste - kitsch


      admiration adoration attraction bias delight favorite lure public taste agreeable attractive biased delightful favorite seductive charm delight enjoy luxuriate sweet


      disapproval disgust dislike offense prejudice unwelcome bitter crawly damned objectionable offensive

    Mutable and subjective

    Unlike some other sensations, taste is particularly mutable, adamantly subjective, and sometimes in conflict with our aesthetic ideas. More than a sensory pleasure, taste is philosophy, ideology, an aesthetic that most social creatures acknowledge, and often desire. Let us explore the ways that taste works in various historical contexts, social settings, and physical locations. Our consideration of taste will range from representations of gastric pleasures and displeasures to figures of taste, both good and bad--the fop, the lady, and the dandy, for example. Our explorations will include considerations of good taste, bad taste, tastelessness, kitsch, camp, and various other distinctions. -- Dr Ashley Stockstill

    Popular Culture and High Culture: an Analysis and Evaluation of Taste (1974) - Herbert J. Gans

    Popular Culture and High Culture: an Analysis and Evaluation of Taste (1974) - Herbert J. Gans [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    One of the world's most respected sociologists updates his classic work on public views of popular and high culture.

    Is NYPD Blue a less valid form of artistic expression than a Shakespearean drama? Who is to judge and by what standards?

    In this new edition of Herbert Gans's brilliantly conceived and clearly argued landmark work, he builds on his critique of the universality of high cultural standards. While conceding that popular and high culture have converged to some extent over the twenty-five years since he wrote the book, Gans holds that the choices of typical Ivy League graduates, not to mention Ph.D.s in literature, are still very different from those of high school graduates, as are the movie houses, television channels, museums, and other cultural institutions they frequent.

    "In this revised and updated edition, Herbert Gans extends his classic study of the roles popular culture and high culture play in American society. Gans argues in favor of all peoples' right to the culture they choose. He also looks at "dumbing down" and other examples of the new mass culture critique and lays out changes in America's taste cultures. Gans has added a new introduction and new postscripts to each chapter updating the original analysis to incorporate recent trends. --via Amazon.com

    see also: Herbert Gans - art - high - high art - hierarchy

    Taste: The Secret Meaning of Things (1991) - Stephen Bayley

  • Taste: The Secret Meaning of Things (1991) - Stephen Bayley [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Taste forever changes, as the fluctuating reputations of Shakespeare and El Greco attest. On this central premise British design critic Bayley erects a witty, erudite, wide-ranging social history of taste that demolishes the gaudy, the meretricious, the ready-made and the vulgar, both high and low. He takes aim at the Duke and Duchess of Windsor ("forever in pursuit of a mythic gentility"), prim Scandinavian furniture as the presumed epitome of "good design," contemporary kitsch architecture a la Manhattan's Trump Tower and fashion designer Ralph Lauren ("he sells an image of an image, based on romanticized myths about the Wild West and WASP society"). This lavishly illustrated survey includes chapters on taste and lack thereof in art, architecture, interior design, clothes, food and manners. Intriguing observations abound: for instance, the length of a sneaker's tongue is a macho symbol among athletes, and the idea that tanned skin is attractive goes back no further than the pseudo-scientific theory of heliotherapy developed in the 1920s by German and Swiss doctors. --From Publishers Weekly, amazon.com see also secret, meaning

    The Sociology of Taste (1997) by Jukka Gronow

  • The Sociology of Taste (1997) by Jukka Gronow [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    Statistically Improbable Phrases (SIPs): (learn more)
    pure social interaction, modern food culture, pecuniary beauty, democratic luxury, modern eater, mass fashion, pecuniary power, fashion mechanism, collective taste, legitimate taste, hedonistic consumer, new petite bourgeoisie, collective selection, agreeable arts, fashion pattern, universal communicability, formal sociology, demand for novelty, modern consumption, elite fashion, artificial needs, full individuality, aesthetic sociology

    Capitalized Phrases (CAPs): (learn more)
    Georg Simmel, Immanuel Kant, Soviet Union, Herbert Blumer, Rosalind Williams, Terry Eagleton, Colin Campbell, Vance Packard, Friedrich Schiller, Second World War, Claude Fischler, Western Europe, Zygmunt Bauman, Alan Warde, Daniel Bell, David Frisby, Vera Dunham, Max Weber, George Cheyne, Fleischman's Yeast

    Book Description
    The roles of fashion and taste are central to our understanding of the social dynamics of modern consumer cultures. In this study on the aestheticization of social life, Jukka Gronow uses the insights of Veblen, Simmel and Huizinga among others to show how fashion operates as a form of play binding modern society together and allowing an equilibrium between the opposing forces of the individual and society. In the process, he draws on a rich range of examples and case studies ranging from the dominance of kitsch in late nineteenth century Europe to the shifting nature of luxury in the Soviet Union from the 1930s through to the growing influence of western ideas of the good life from the 1960s on to food scares and food fashion in the late twentieth century.--via Amazon.com

    Download Description
    The Sociology of Taste looks at the role of taste, or the aesthetic relfection, in society at large and in modern society in particular. It illustrates the role of fashion in the formation of collective taste.--via Amazon.com [Oct 2005]

    Camille Mauclair, art industriel, Dream Worlds: Mass Consumption in Late Nineteenth-Century France (1982) by Rosalind Williams [Amazon.com], kitsch, 18th century consumerism.

    I am not quite sure that I read in Gronow's book, but the original meaning is of the Latin phrase de gustibus et coloribus ... does not mean that everyone's taste is personal and that you cannot question another's taste but quite the opposite. It means that taste is beyond dispute, that there is only one taste.

    Fashion is bienial change, high velocity, novelty, a quantative rather than a qualitative description.

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